What do you think? • Funding from Public Health is the way to get more disabled people back to work? • Or is strong leadership focused on outcomes for disabled people the real answer to reducing their cost to the State? • Blind design in pewter is OK but the molten metal is probably a step too far!
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has new ideas about using Public Health money to help more disabled people work – it sounds rather like a return to the old DHSS (Department for Health and Social Security for you young ones!). A key difference is that they suggest that local Councils lead: “holding the budget, brokering or commissioning provision, and being held to account for performance”.
Our Help to Work activities (www.helptowork.org.uk) have already successfully tested the IPPR vision of partnership delivery: “to draw together a range of services and support – across employment health, housing, skills, substance abuse and so on”. Our Steps to Success model shows the different types of help that might be needed – and it is clear that no one delivery organisation can do it all. To succeed, we know that delivery partners often need to adapt their support for disabled clients:
- Personal. One-to-one support tailored to individual needs; flexibility about timings, duration and location of support; building in reasonable adjustments and alternative formats from the outset.
- Holistic. Able to coordinate a range of different help without clients becoming lost during “hand-offs”. Reducing “creaming” and “parking” by valuing outcomes other than just jobs/self-employment.
- Specialist. Fully trained and experienced staff; case loads planned on client needs rather than the budget.
- Local. Recognising that disabled and disadvantaged people can’t or won’t travel; targeting realistic individual travel-to-work labour markets.
This could all look expensive but is far more achievable if cost is spread across the public sector bodies that will reap the benefits. IPPR suggests funding from DWP, the health sector (about 7% of Public Health funding plus contributions from Clinical Commissioning Groups), European funds plus social investments. But this may be not ambitious enough. There is clearly a case for contributions from other parts of the State that will also see benefits from more disabled people in work: From less re-offending, more tax and NI payments, more skills etc.
Localism is core so the IPPR idea of future Combined Authorities taking the lead could be risky: just new levels of bureaucracy amongst Councils covering large areas with little knowledge or experience of employment support across the diversity of disabilities. Most important is that they don’t waste time and money on re-inventing the wheels that so many of us have been successfully turning for years. It may be too optimistic to just bolt on new tasks to existing structures that already have long-term priorities. Instead, many Councils may need new employment support movers and shakers to drive the vision forward. If all the experience and target-driven culture of Jobcentres, Work Programme and Work Choice have failed, it is going to take more than different funding streams, devolved responsibilities and partnerships to succeed. Strong leadership focussed on outcomes for disabled people has more chance than simply moving the deckchairs.
The paper’s recommendation to increase the obligations of both employers and employees to return to work is probably overdue but not demanding enough. Indeed, they seem to suggest that the Equality Act 2010 is failing: “There are also few requirements on employers to make adjustments to work duties or working conditions or to offer an alternative job, to facilitate a return to work”. Perhaps there needs to be a sanctions regime as tough as that for benefit recipients that is applied to employers’ unlawful behaviour – without having to go to employment tribunals? A fairer balance of obligations and consequences faced by both employers and employees would be a valuable step forward – but perhaps there is little political appetite for challenging employers when the vulnerable are easier targets.
Click to read the full report
Finally, on the vexed issue of benefit sanctions, surely most of us agree that there need to be some obligations placed on those claiming benefits (“conditionality”) but equally penalties for failing to fulfil such must be fair and just – see the Guardian article
Bouquet of the week.
Goes to Fleur for helping me turn my clay models in to useful little pewter objects. She did all the complicated pouring of molten metal and soldering while I made moulds with Lego. It was a good start but I’m going to do better.
Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk
Helping disabled people to work since 2000